Saturday, 9 January 2010

Time travelling is exciting but dangerous...

Henry can travel in time and mostly visiting his past life which led him to meet his future wife. It is a mix of fantasy and love story that appeals to every reader.

Unfortunately, not a happy ending but the connection between Henry and Clare will continue in the presence of their daughter, Alba.

Every minute of his life since then has been marked by her absence, every action has lacked dimension because she is not there to measure against... I know, how absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird.

"Well, whoever you are, Im here now. You may be Henry's past, but I'm his future"

Friday, 8 January 2010

Man's best friend

The book is nominated in two categories for the 2006 Quill Book Award: the audio-book and biography/memoir categories finalist, including the Book of the Year award.

WHEN I WAS in Logan International Airport‘s (Boston) waiting lounge, a male passenger who seated besides me was carrying this book and I personally asked him if it is a good read. He politely replied that he has not started reading it and the reason why he bought it at the airport is because it’s on sale and a ‘bestseller‘. During the entire trip, I was thinking about the book as my next priority read. Unfortunately, I was not able to buy it; instead I got it from a friend who happened to be an active member of the group when I went back from my US vacation in summer 2006.

There are a series of reports of dog fatal attacks around the world and having this review might do a little repair to the damage and bring something good about having a dog in our homes.

Sit…jump…stop… good boy! These are familiar words from the master commanding his dog to do a series of tricks. Watching these tricks is amusing and a rewarding experience for the owner especially when the dog can immediately catch up with the commands. Otherwise, it is a frustrating effort to pursue these tricks which what John and Jenny Grogans are beginning to embark with their journey of having Marley, a dog in their marriage life.

The young couple who are both working as journalists in the local newspapers decided to have their own dog - a Labrador retriever! The dog got its name from a Jamaican singer (Bob Marley) who happened to record the couple’s favourite song. From a wiggly yellow fur ball puppy into a ninety-seven pound dog, Marley is the love of their life. But there is something unusual about Marley, contradicting to what Labrador is popular known as having the best quality breed of dogs. From crashing screen doors, eating various household products and to be expelled to the training school, Marley seems a hyper domestic pet. And even the veterinarian has to prescribe a tranquillizer for him to slow down and behave like a young normal retriever.

Even being tagged as a ‘worst dog’, Marley is just an ordinary pet. He can do what a dog is expected to do: being loyal to the Grogans’ family during happy and sad moments; a protector during house threats; and be ‘popular’ after his first movie appearance. Through the years, despite the hard works of the Grogans, Marley is always there to share his bigger-than-life personality and happy-go-lucky spirit - as one of the members of the Grogan family.

THIS IS MY FIRST TIME to read a book where a ‘pet’ is the main character based on real life and written by the owner himself, Mr John Grogan. Interestingly, the story is well written having actual accounts for being an owner of a Lab. John being a journalist has able to explain effortlessly how he and his wife made a big decision to have Marley in their lives.

John, being the author and the master of Marley provides the readers a complete perspective of having a worst dog and at the same time having a happy married life. His patience and perseverance making Marley his best dog is in futile, but on the other hand his friendship proves for being Marley as a loyal, wonderful, and memorable dog. He perfectly describes his struggles to making Marley an ideal Lab. Funny and embarrassing moments with his dog are authentic as readers could possibly connect themselves how these events unfold.

John’s wife, Jenny is also plays an important role in the story, aside from being instrumental to have Marley in their lives, but her support to John’s work-related decisions and family matters make their marriage intact. For Marley’s portrayal as the real pet of the family reminds me of my outlook in life – enjoy it and take a little risk of doing things.

I don’t have any dull moments reading this book which gives me the eagerness to finish it - from preface up to the last page of its acknowledgment. The content structure is straightforward which I could follow the significant events of the story covered within the 29 sections of the book. One of the highlights of this is that, the author conveys his mixed emotions to his readers effectively, particularly narrating the stages when he patiently learned his dog‘s behaviours and somehow be more realistic to deal with it. Consequently, I believe that this is very useful for people who desperately want to have a dog, with lovable qualities like the Labrador retriever breed; but unfortunately it does not happen all the times. In particular, the author expresses his high and low moments of being a dog keeper, the struggle to be sensible with the family needs without losing Marley. Most importantly, the author provides basic facts about Labrador retriever inherited qualities which only prove that this class of dog is really a man’s best friend! The other issue that the author discussed in the story is how he managed to accept the final moment of Marley’s health. His brave decision is something heartbreaking and maybe not everybody will agree on it.

The experience of John to raise Marley is an astonishing story that everyone could relate, especially for those who have share their unconditional love to their pets. As a reflection, I heard a lot of stories about couples/families who decided to have pets instead of raising their own children. It may seems weird but they argue that raising pets is a rewarding experience of having their timeless loyalty and respect, while having kids where there is no guarantee that after raising them could return back the love they showered to them. Somehow I could relate this argument in our society now. My friends working in the nursing homes and other elderly-caring institutions have shared to me the current plight of the older people when their families (children) and relatives do not bother to pay visit or totally abandoned them for years. Ironically, family members could only be seen in the bedsides when inheritance is being distributed and during the funeral arrangements. Fortunately, John and Jenny decided both, 3 children and a dog.

The big difference of this story from my readings in the past is that, it stands-out because the author offers me the chance to walk through in his journey as a Lab keeper and have a close encounter with an unpredictable hyper dog!

His life with Marley reminds us of our own lives - the good and the bad times! Life is too short with full of surprises. Everyone has one life to live, thus have it memorable and exciting.

FINALLY, this is also the story of loyalty of the master of Marley, John himself - a true and compassionate friend indeed! If Marley could only be able to speak to the Grogans family, he will probably say… ‘I love you and thank you for everything. You will always have a place in my doggy heart!’

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A hero might fail but he never gives up...

This is not a fairy tale. I keep this to remind me that life isn't a fairy tale. Things don't happen by magic, or by wishing on a star. It takes hard work, discipline, control.

With all the time in the world at his command, he has the power to rescue millions. But what will it take to save the one life that means the most?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Stairway to Heaven

THIS IS THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER from Mitch Albom after the released of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ which gave him a good reputation for being an inspirational writer.

We have different concept of heaven. My first concept is derived from my volunteer teacher in Catechism, who provided me the fundamental understanding of God and the life with no end in heaven. With Albom’s book, it gives me a different perspective of heaven when his main character, Eddie died accidentally at the age of 83.

Edward (Eddie) is a war veteran, widower and no children. Prior to the tragic accident, he is a maintenance/repair man in an amusement park, Ruby Pier. He is responsible in overseeing the day-to-day operations of all the rides – making them safe to everyone. One day without any sign or premonition, he was killed while saving an eight year girl from the falling cart of one of the rides. A typical after death experience, Eddie woke up with a surprise that he is feeling differently and unusual things happening before his eyes. While trying to comprehend on what is going on, he is directed to five different people (The Blue Man, the Captain, Ruby, his late wife Marguerite and the young girl, Tala) that three of them were strangers whom he haven’t met during his life on earth.

The brief explanation for each Eddie’s encounter or journey to reach his final ‘home’ called heaven is not giving you the excitement of the book, but rather giving you a quick look of the lesson that Eddie learned from each individual he met. Also, it provides a better perspective of the characters directly or indirectly involved while Eddie is still alive.

The first acquaintance with the Blue Man is really a heart-breaking part of the story. It crashed my heart, knowing the life of the Blue Man as a nervous young boy and became an abnormal freaky person. The lesson learned by Eddie from this meeting: “Eddie realised that no life is a waste. The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone”.

The second person is with the Captain. Eddie was able to serve the army and this is the reason why he is limping due to a gunshot which the Captain has important to tell him. The flashback of Eddie’s life as a soldier is quite an inspiration – he learned so many things. Eddie learned a lesson: “He found out that sacrifice is part of life, either little or big. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to”.

The park owner’s wife, Ruby is Eddie’s third unexpected visit. Ruby explained how the amusement park turned to reality which made a significant impact to Eddie’s life, particularly to his father. Eddie did learn from it: “He learned that holding anger is a poison and hatred is a curved blade – the harm we do, we do to ourselves”.

The fourth person that Eddie met is his loving wife. For Eddie, seeing his beloved wife is an emotional situation. Memories flashed over him – the happy moments being together.
What is the lesson learned? “Eddie found his lost love in a different form. He also learned that life has to end while love does not”.

The last unexpected meeting is Tala, the young girl who that Eddie could not understand her significance to his life. Again the last lesson learned: “Eddie took it for granted his popular name, ‘Eddie Maintenance’ and the value of his work in the amusement park – keeping children safe”.

THE STORY is presented in 208 pages which divided it into three main parts: the encounters of Eddie with the five people, the lessons learned from those meetings, and the highlights during his birthday celebrations in the past 83 years. The author gives vivid descriptions of every detail of the meeting – the location, the emotion of every character, and the significance of why Eddie is destined to talk to them. This is a light read but full of wisdom and encouragement which I believe could probably enlighten you up in some way or another and brings a different perspective in your life at the moment.

It is a delightful surprise that the author featured the character of Tala, the young Asian girl who happened to be a Filipino (my nationality); and featuring basic Filipino words such as ‘sundalo’ (soldier), ina (mother), baro (dress), bakya (cloglike shoes), banig (bamboo mat), saya (skirt) and even the name herself, Tala which means ‘star’. Reading these words from the book gives me a big smile and thinking on how Albom managed to use them to highlight the event where it happened. It also brings a comical scene on how the young girl introduced herself by describing her clothes, but suddenly becomes melancholy when she explained to Eddie her fate inside the burning ‘nipa hut’(barn).

It is a powerful story depicting how our life on earth is interconnected with events and people. Surprisingly, I felt that Eddie’s meetings are also my very first encounters with these five strangers and provided me to understand the meaning of life – the human existence. There is so much to learn from this book that Albom did it perfectly to inspire us and value our stay on earth – put meanings to our life!

The author also reminded us how forgiveness as a powerful word that moves every hardened heart to soften. It is a magical expression of love and understanding that takes away all the fears, anger and hatred in our hearts.